It has been a while since I last put together my thoughts on the 2012 season and man have things changed again quite dramatically. At one point after calling up Anthony Rizzo it appeared that the Cubs were going to prove the nay-sayers wrong in how bad they would be. Then the trading deadline approached and more changes were made and it appeared that the team was not putting in the effort that they were at one point in the win streak that started when Rizzo was promoted. So where do things stand at this point for our beloved team and what is still yet to happen.
Let’s take a look at the roster as it stand right now. The starting eight for this team (not necessarily in batting order) is: Anthony Rizzo, Josh Vitters, Brett Jackson, Alfonso Soriano, Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro, David DeJesus and either Steve Clevenger or Welington Castillo behind the plate. The one thing I like about this potential every day line-up is that it is loaded with players that are supposed to be the future of this franchise and is very young. With all the trades that took place, it is going to be a lot of fun to see how well these kids will all play and handle the pressure of being in the Big Leagues. The only hard part is that Alfonso Soriano is still on the team and I am hoping that he will still be moved eventually to an American League team who still needs a bat that is surprisingly productive this year. I am sad to see Reed Johnson leave as he was a huge fan favorite and a good solid veteran utility man to help out. Geovany Soto being shipped off to the Texas Rangers did not break my heart either. While I enjoyed Soto’s time on the North Side, it just seemed that Soto was not able to capture the magic he had in his rookie year and a change of scenery may be something that will help Soto get back on track. With the core four that are supposed to be the heart of the franchise, it will be fun to watch Rizzo, Castro, Jackson and Vitters all together working on being the players that they all have been projected to be. One thing is for sure is that to me this team will be a bit more entertaining to watch versus the veterans that are usually what Cub Fans have to deal with.
Let’s look at who the starting five pitchers maybe. There is Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Justin Germano, Chris Volstad and Matt Garza. I do not think that any of these five are going to make the opposition to nervous to face however, with Samardzija, Wood and Germano this is going to be fun to see if they really will be quality Major League pitchers and Samardzija started off well however, is struggling currently. I do not expect Garza to necessarily last out the rest of the 2012 season once he gets back from the arm problems that he is suffering through. The question is will another team poach Garza off the waiver wire killing a possible trade that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer know will benefit the team. Chris Volstad does not do much for me and we are stuck with Volstad for the rest of the year and will be a free agent after the season concludes. I will not be sorry to see Volstad leave this organization. There just is not much to this starting five and this is going the biggest weakness for a while.
So what else do the Cubs have at this point for players on the bench? We have Joe Mather, Adrian Cardenas, Brian LaHair (2012 All Star), Luis Valbuena and Ian Stewart who is in Injured Reserve. I would love to get LaHair back into the every day line-up one way or another. Granted LaHair has struggled to a degree in the second half of the year however, I still feels that he has plenty of upside still left to help this team. Joe Mather is all right however, I am not convinced that he will make Cub Fans forget about Reed Johnson or even Jeff Baker to a degree however, let’s see what happens for the rest of this season as Mather one of very few non pricy veterans that is currently on this team. Ian Stewart is going to be a mystery still at this point as he is gone for the rest of the year. With Vitters being brought up and ideally taking over third base, Stewart may not be a part of the future for this team any longer. I personally do not know enough of Valbuena nor Cardenas to have a thought on either one of them to know if either one will be a decent reserve on the bench or not.
Then there is the other part of the pitching equation that is known as the bullpen aka relief pitchers. Carlos Marmol still concerns me as this teams closer. Everything in regards to Marmol’s statistics is nothing to get to excited about. Granted Marmol is 14 out of 16 saves this season which is nice yet his E.R.A. is a bit to high and the walks to strikeouts does not impress me with 33 walks and 44 strikeouts. This tells me that there is still some control issues that Marmol has and I do not have faith that Chris Bosio will be able to help turn this around for Marmol. Marmol at one point and time in his career reminded me of Francisco Rodriguez when Rodriguez was a member of the Angels and was nicknamed Kid K. That notion seems that a completely impossible thing at this point and maybe moving Marmol would ideally get another couple of younger arms that will eventually help this team. Then there is James Russell, Scott Maine, Shawn Camp, Manny Corpas, Jeff Beliveau, Alberto Cabrera, Lendy Castillo and Blake Parker that make up the rest of the relief corps with Castillo and Parker currently on the IR. Corpas seems like he make be a decent relief pitcher if he is able to show consistency in his approach to this game. Russell and Maine I am just not completely sure about and when you have young starters who most likely will need help in completing games these two pitchers are not the first ones that I would think of in regards to long relief appearances to help this team however, it is what we have currently for 2012 and Cubs Nation will have to hope that Epstein, Hoyer and McLeod will find suitable replacements to help this very young team start to develop into a team that we may all be very proud of.
If you thought that the hiring of Theo Epstein and his right hand men would provide a quick fix for the 104 year drought since the last World Series Championship you were greatly mistaken. Epstein is doing what no other executive in recent memory has been able to accomplish. This accomplishment is a total overhaul of the organization from the top to the bottom as Jim Hendry and Andy MacPhail had totally depleted the minor league system in an attempt to end the drought of appearances or World Series Championships. Going into 2012 it seemed that after Spring Training that this team may have been fortunate enough to play .500 baseball. It was quickly realized that this team would not be even that good. The move to get as much as possible for the veterans that could get something in return did not go as smoothly nor as profitable as one would have expected however, having the kids up in the Bigs to provide us all an opportunity to see the future with it being now is a very good thing.
It may be at least another year or two before things will really start to turn around with the changes that Epstein et al were brought in here to make. It will be fun to watch the effort of the kids that have been touted as the future of the franchise. As the team develops, do not be surprised to see some of the top level pitchers that will be part of the league at that time will wind up calling the Northside home. As the kids get better and improve, Epstein and his crew will make the necessary changes to get the final piece or two of the puzzle in place to get the Cubs over the top in being contenders and baseball gods willing, World Series Champions. Growing pains hurt to go through as well the futility that this organization has been. Yet I believe for the first time in a long time that this team is being built up from the bottom and will be something we all will be extremely proud of for many years to come. I am glad for the things that are happening with this team and looking forward to the future and what it is supposed to bring.